Global Vietnam has been an extraordinary experience so far- the sights, smells and atmosphere of Hanoi has been absolutely capturing. The buzz words of authenticity and dichotomy have been thrown around in abundance, and I’ve been challenged to look at my own “western” perspective on most aspects of Vietnamese life. I’ve loved getting to learn not only about Vietnamese culture, but also about the other 21 incredible ANU students participating in the course.
However it is not to say that this course hasn’t been without it’s hurdles.
The topics we are looking at are fascinating. FASINATING. However focusing on the massive issues of gender, labour and migration in contemporary Vietnam is overwhelming. With only two weeks to complete the in-country component of the course, we have been trying to balance our group speeches, having cultural experiences and reflections. I know. REFLECTIONS. But to be perfectly honest, they’ve given us a chance to critically reflect (haha) on the fascinating experiences we’ve had – questions included ‘How do gender and gender identity in Vietnam intersect with individual agency in different contexts’ and ‘How are children/teens involved in Vietnamese labour practices’. That’s been the first challenge for me- being critical of my observations and attempting to write a response in 500-750 words. However these are an incredible opportunity to critically response to the world around me- despite the time restrictions.
Now, let’s look at my personal life. I’ve had some pretty bad luck whilst I’ve been in Vietnam; this all began when I accidently tipped over and smashed a marble table top on my third night here. The table was already broken, and I was attempting to move it so we could all sit together for dinner, but I still had to pay $150. But alas my bad luck did not stop there. For those of you following my adventures on the Global Programs Instagram page, you might remember that my laptop decided to unceremoniously ‘die’. With all the impeding assessment, I was a wee bit stressed – however the academic staff on the course have been extremely helpful and gave me some beautiful extensions on all my work (#blessed). I also suffered a bit of a sore stomach (like most students on the course) after potentially being too enthusiastic about the street food. We’ve also encountered a few funny challenges with mis-communication- a lot of rooms booked with twin beds somehow ended up with one double; only one room key given to rooms of two and three; and our general inability to grasp the Vietnamese language. But all of these also presented opportunities to face challenges head on and get through them with a laugh or two. And to be honest- our accommodation has been stellar- especially in Mai Chau where we each had a small stand-alone bungalow with STUNNING views of rice fields and mountains.
So I guess overall Hanoi has been small cons vs big pros. Personal disasters aside the course is incredibly interesting and I would recommend anyone and everyone interested in studying abroad or engaging with an incredible country to apply. Fingers crossed that my luck looks up in the next few days whilst I finish the course and head onwards on my next adventure!
Final mark: 10/10 for cultural experiences.